Powers of Observation

The camp site at Forever Florida was incredibly remote, a 20 minute drive down a bumpy dirt track through cow pastures and wilderness. Crossing the cow pastures was the strangest thing. The cows were completely unafraid of our ferocious growling minivan. Instead of running away, they preferred to lay down in the road in front of us and look at us with their big cow eyes.

As we left each pasture, we had to open the gate and close it behind us.

The Forever Florida guy was very clear on the importance of the gates. “Each cow’s worth about a thousand dollars, and the bulls are two or three times that. You leave a gate open, we charge you for each one that gets out.”

The gates, however, did not seem particularly impressive: just a white nylon ribbon hanging across the opening.

“That doesn’t look like it would keep a cow out,” my oldest son said as he and I walked from the car to the first one.

“I know.”

One end of the ribbon had a metal hook which was hooked into a metal loop of wire. There was a big plastic handle behind the hook, which, in retrospect, should have been a clue.

While the cows watched us, I grabbed the plastic handle, unhooked the hook, and moved the ribbon out of the way.

“Very odd.”

We drove through the opening, then climbed back out of the car and returned to close the gate.

I reached down into the tall grass where I’d dropped the end of the ribbon. “Ow!”

“What?” my son said.

Something had stung my hand, but I couldn’t tell what. “I’m not sure.”

I lifted the plastic handle up and carried it across the opening. He grabbed the white ribbon to help. “Ow! Ow!”

“What’s wrong?” I hooked the end through the loop, and as I did so, my hand slipped off the plastic and to a little bit of metal at its base. “Ow!”

This time, I recognized the feeling. “It’s electrocuted! Get away!”

“What?” he said, jumping back. We peered closer at the ribbon, and saw the thin little metal threads running along it.

“So that’s why the plastic handle,” I said.

“They could have warned us,” he grumbled. Then he smiled. “I can’t wait to tell Mom I was electrocuted!”

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